A rift has been growing between liberal and black members of Congress and President Obama over his choice to nominate two very socially conservative judicial nominees for vacancies in Georgia. That rift opened further, with Georgia Democrat Rep. David Scott accusing the president of showing "disrespect" to America with these nominees. The White House is fighting back.
Months of controversy exploded into public view again when Scott, in an interview on NewsOne Radio with Roland Martin, said it is incumbent on civil rights groups to convince Obama to pull down Georgia district court nominees Michael Boggs and Mark Cohen, and said the president will thank them for it later. Boggs, a former state legislator, has come under intense fire from civil rights leaders, abortion rights groups and those representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people over past votes to keep the confederate insignia on the Georgia state flag, to tighten restrictions on access to abortion and to ban same-sex marriage. Cohen, meanwhile, has taken heat for successfully defending Georgia's voter ID law in court.White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler responded sharply: "Do we work with Republican senators to find a compromise, or should we leave the seats vacant? [...] We believe it would be grossly irresponsible for the president to leave these seats vacant."
"What your audience needs to understand is the level of disrespect that this president has done to this nation on these appointments," Scott said in the radio interview. "The president is gone in 29 months. These individuals will be left on the courts to impact and affect all future generations."
That's a false choice. President Obama doesn't need to nominate politically abhorrent judges to show bipartisanship or to fill vacancies. He has given Republican senators the courtesy of consulting with them, but he doesn't have to accept their choices. Obama has been using the excuse of Republican agreement and their refusal to provide "blue slips" for nominees to make these unacceptable nominations or to drag his heels on filling other long-standing vacancies. But blue slips, the tradition by which home state senators advance a nomination in the Judiciary Committee, can be ignored.
If there was any justification for Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to abandon the blue slip tradition (as his Republican predecessor Sen. Orrin Hatch did when he was in the chair), it's to prevent these obnoxious nominations. Rep. Scott is absolutely right—these are lifetime appointments, and should not be the lasting legacy of President Obama.